Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Romance Languages

First Advisor

Kevin Brownlee

Abstract

ABSTRACT

THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL: CIVIC GENEALOGY FROM BRUNETTO TO DANTE

Chelsea A. Pomponio

Kevin Brownlee

From the thirteenth century well into the Renaissance, the legend of Florence’s origins, which cast Fiesole as the antithesis of Florentine values, was continuously rewritten to reflect the changing nature of Tuscan society. Modern criticism has tended to dismiss the legend of Florence as a purely literary conceit that bore little relation to contemporary issues. Tracing the origins of the legend in the chronicles of the Duecento to its variants in the works of Brunetto Latini and Dante Alighieri, I contend that the legend was instead a highly adaptive mode of legitimation that proved crucial in the negotiation of medieval Florentine identity. My research reveals that the legend could be continually rewritten to serve the interests of collective and individual authorities. Versions of the legend were crafted to support both republican Guelfs and imperial Ghibellines; to curry favor with the Angevin rulers of Florence and to advance an ethnocentric policy against immigrants; to support the feudal system of privilege and to condemn elite misrule; to denounce the mercantile value of profit and to praise economic freedom. Consideration of the shifting social and political landscape of Florence further reveals a programmatic personalization of the legend over the course of the Trecento, as the boundaries between civic and familial history are increasingly obscured.

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